Since my only daughter left for college in the fall of 2011, I have sent her off – said goodbye – 6 times. The most recent goodbye was this last Sunday. I keep hoping it will get easier – not hurt quite so much.
I’m so proud of what she has accomplished at her age! I can’t help but think about my own 19 year-old self and am astonished at the differences in our experiences. You always want more for your kids than you had, and I hope I’m delivering that for her.
I know letting go and allowing her to find her own way is the right thing to do, but it is hard as hell – harder than I ever anticipated. The good news is she is happy, doing well, making mistakes, falling down, getting up, learning – growing up. I feel good about my contribution to the person she is, but I know that a constellation of influences and experiences – only a small portion of which is me – has contributed. She has taken it all in and created herself with it.
I remember precisely the moment I realized that she was becoming her own independent person. She was in the 7th grade, and it was the all-school talent show for her Kindergarten – 8th grade school. She had been with her dad that week so I wasn’t entirely sure what she was preparing to do, but I knew it would be a musical performance. She had been studying piano since she was 5, so I assumed it would be a piece she was working on with her teacher. She loved the piano, and was focused primarily on classical music. She played for small crowds at recitals, but never her peers, so I suspected she was pretty nervous.
She was the last kid to perform at the show. It had been going for a good hour already, and the audience was becoming pretty restless. I was getting more nervous for her as the buzzing of the crowd got louder and louder. After the act just before her, the curtain on the stage closed, and after a few minutes slowly opened again, revealing my girl seated at the piano, with a microphone. A microphone? What is this?
The crowd applauded politely, and she began playing a song I recognized but had no idea she knew how to play – Coldplay’s The Scientist. My heart was pounding! What is going on here – is she going to sing? If you are familiar with the song, you know there is a piano lead-in before the lyrics begin.
Boom. There it was. Her voice was beautiful – completely on pitch, strong, confident. I was, as the brits say, gob-smacked. And so proud. The audience was entranced by what she was doing up there, and I along with them. I looked over at her dad and made a “really? are you kidding?” face. It was at that very moment I realized that she really is not an extension of me, but she is, in fact, a very different person – her own person. A person – female adolescent – who had the guts to get up on stage and sing and play piano in front of her peers. I would never in a million years be able to do that – even if I had the musical chops.
Since that moment I have seen her perform many, many times. Each time I experience a similar rush of pride and admiration. Just being around her makes me feel good, no matter what she is doing. Which is why these goodbyes don’t get easier – and maybe that’s a good thing.
My girl, Dec. 2012